Con artist targets international students in Flogsta
– Unfortunately, everyone needs to be more suspicious of people they meet, says the police.
The new year got off to a bad start for Japanese exchange student Ryo (not his actual name). On the afternoon of January 1st he was walking up the stairwell of the building he lives in – one of the high-rises in Flogsta – to meet a friend who lives a few floors above him, when a man around the age of 50 stopped him. He asked Ryo if he was Chinese or Japanese.
– When I told him I’m Japanese he said he was meeting a Japanese person and needed help with translation. But first he had to call another Japanese person on the phone to get in contact with the person he was meeting. He said he didn’t have any money on his phone and needed to buy a SIM card since he didn’t have a Swedish one, says Ryo.
Though Ryo was already weary of the man’s behaviour, he gave him the benefit of the doubt and accompanied him on foot to the centre of town where the man said he would buy a SIM card at the kiosk of the hotel he was staying at. They stopped a bit away from the hotel and the man asked Ryo to guard his bags while he went in to buy the SIM card.
– I don’t even know if he actually went in, maybe he just took a walk around the hotel. When he came back he said he was unable to buy a SIM card since they wouldn’t accept Euros or American Express. And then he suddenly asked me to lend him money for the SIM card, says Ryo.
"Then he showed me his ID and told me to take a photo of it so that I could hold him accountable if he tried to cheat me."
He asked how much money he needed and mistakenly thought the man asked for 160 kronor. Ryo repeatedly said no, but the man persisted and eventually followed Ryo back to Flogsta. Ryo started thinking 160 kronor would be an okay price to pay just to get rid of the man, but during their walk it turned out the man was asking for a lot more.
– I realised he was asking for 1 600 kronor and I told him I wouldn’t lend him that, that it was too risky. I also asked why the SIM card was so expensive and he said that this specific card would last for three months. Then he showed me his ID and told me to take a photo of it so that I could hold him accountable if he tried to cheat me.
Eventually, Ryo withdrew the 1 600 kronor at the ATM by Ica Väst, while the man stood next to him.
– I handed him the money and he promised me he would return it to me within two hours. He gave me his phone number and I went back to my corridor room.
After the two hours had passed, Ryo called the man. He picked up, but said he was unable to exchange the money he had to Swedish kronor. Ryo said it was okay to return the money in the currency he had.
– He said he would do it tomorrow, but I told him I needed it today. He said okay, but of course I didn’t get the money. After that I couldn’t reach him any more.
The next day, Ryo decided to do a post about the incident in a Facebook group for Flogsta residents. It turned out Ryo wasn’t the con man’s first victim. People in the group wrote that the man had targeted other international students living in Flogsta, mainly Japanese and Korean students. The man is mentioned already in a post from spring of 2018, in which his methods of conning students is described – all very similar to Ryo’s experience.
A couple of days later, a person in the group alerted Ryo that the man was spotted outside one of the high rises. Ryo went to find the man and called the police when he did.
– The police said they couldn’t do anything, but that I should try to talk to him. That seemed so strange to me. But I went up to him. He claimed he had been looking for me. I was so angry. I asked for my money again, but he kept making excuses to why he couldn’t give it to me.
The man eventually walked away and Ryo followed him from a distance for a while, until the man told him he needed to stop. Ryo went back to Flogsta and hasn’t talked to the man since. A Swedish friend helped him report the incident properly to the police a few days ago and Ryo says that the landlord Heimstaden as well as the housing office of Uppsala University have been informed of what happened.
"The people committing fraud are getting smarter."
Mikael Hedström, police and media contact for polisregion Mitt. (Photo: Polisen/Frank Werle)
The police confirms that the incident has been reported to them and that it has, at this stage, been labelled as fraud through social manipulation (bedrägeri genom social manipulation in Swedish) and that an investigation is pending.
– The police will look into the report, but unfortunately the amount is so small that it might not warrant an investigation in the end, or at least it might take some time before it’s investigated. We have fraud cases where the amount is millions of Swedish kronor, which we cannot prioritise right away due to lack of investigators. That’s the harsh reality, says Mikael Hedström, police and media contact for polisregion Mitt.
The difficulty with these types of fraud cases is that the police need proof of intent, he explains. To just borrow money from someone and not pay it back on time is not a crime in itself.
– However, should it become evident that the man in this case has put the described procedure into system, without the intent to pay the borrowed money back, then it’s a crime that needs to be investigated, says Mikael Hedström.
This is why it’s important that any students that get conned by this man report it to the police, so that they have proof he has done this on repeated occasions. Fraud is the fastest growing crime category, while theft is decreasing.
– The people committing fraud are getting smarter, and they know for example that Stockholm police normally won’t investigate cases where the amount is lower than 5 000 kronor. As long as they take less than that, they’re normally safe. And the punishment for fraud is generally lower than theft, says Mikael Hedström.
As the means of committing fraud get more intricate, people need to become more careful.
– Unfortunately, everyone needs to be more suspicious of people they meet, says Mikael Hedström.
"This is the first time I have been betrayed by a person like this."
Before he came to Sweden, Ryo worked 5-7 hours a day for a year while he was studying in order to afford studying abroad, so losing 1 600 kronor stings, he says. Though the actual money isn’t what bothers him the most about this whole ordeal.
– It made me really sad. This is the first time I have been betrayed by a person like this. I called my parents and cried after the incident. For a few days I couldn’t concentrate on the assignments I was supposed to do, I just wanted to stay in bed. Maybe I was in a bubble when I lived in Japan. Japanese people are taught from an early age to always be kind to others and it sucks that someone would try to take advantage of that.
Luckily, Ryo has gotten a lot of support from friends, neighbours and those who read his Facebook post.
Have you been conned by this man (or any other person)? Call the police at 114 14 or visit a police station to file a report.